Growing up in Northern Canada, I was subjected to 50 below weather, snow blizzards, and icicles as long as my arm. However, I have very fond memories of skating on backyard rinks, tobogganing, making snowmen, and sleigh rides. Our next door neighbor would hang strings of brass harness bells on his Clydesdales and take us for sleigh rides on forested trails complete with cozy buffalo blankets and mugs of hot chocolate. Taking a sleigh ride is one of the most quintessential winter activities you can do with your family and friends.
However, if a sleigh ride is not on your agenda this winter, don’t despair. There are many orchestral music pieces that will evoke the feeling of a magical winter ride and excite your imagination of gliding on a sparkling snow-covered landscape.
“Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson
“Sleigh Ride” is a light orchestral piece composed by American composer Leroy Anderson in 1948. It is a musical depiction of the winter season long ago and the composition is still ranked as one of the 10 most popular pieces of Christmas music worldwide. The song is noted for the sound of the horses’ clip clopping, as well as the sound of the horsewhips as the driver spurs on the horses.
The introductory bars immediately set the tone of the winter wonderland with the jingling sleigh bells and glockenspiels. This is followed by the woodwinds and strings creating snow flurries by playing short trills on each note. The next section adds some wood blocks for the “clip clop” effect followed by more whip cracks from the percussion section. Toward the end of the piece, a trumpet makes the sound of a horse whinnying. We then hear more clip clopping and one more whip crack before the orchestra plays the final cadence. If you have bells, they are fun to ring at the jingle bell section of the piece.
“Winter Night, No. 2” of “Three Tone Poems” by Frederick Delius
Romantic English composer Frederick Delius composed this small tone poem in 1899. Commonly known as “Sleigh Ride” it became one of Delius’s most popular miniature works. When you listen to this music, close your eyes and you will be transported to a snowy moonlit sleigh ride under a clear, starry night. This music is a glittering, shimmering musical piece and it reflects Delius’ love of nature. It is a gentle, lyrical work with a slow galloping rhythm complete with jingling sleigh bells. It begins with a catchy piccolo melody with accompanying sleigh bells followed by a slower section by the strings. The piccolo theme returns at the end of the piece and then the music softly fades as if the sleigh is disappearing into the snowy distance. This music is ideal to listen to while drawing and painting snow scenes.
“The Skater’s Waltz Op.183” by Emile Waldteufel
Composed in 1882, this waltz evokes ice skaters and scenes of a wintry day. The music is graceful and swirling with tinkling sleigh bells in the percussion section to complete the scene of skaters circling and spinning on an outdoor rink. The piece begins slowly with a solo French horn followed by graceful strings and woodwinds that lead to the waltz theme. The glissando notes invoke scenes of swirling snowflakes and a sparkling wonderland. For further enjoyment, play the music while dancing and twirling long colorful ribbons.
“Musical Sleigh Ride Divertimento in F Major” by Leopold Mozart
This fun music was written in 1755 by Wolfgang Mozart’s father, Leopold Mozart. It is a very popular classical piece for children as it contains numerous colorful effects – sleigh bells, horse whinnies, clip-clops, dogs barking, and whips. The steady playful rhythm evokes horses trotting along on a winter landscape, with blowing winter winds, and the passengers enjoying their ride in the sleigh. The percussive effects add to the festive mood and the jaunty tempo imparts an almost breathless feeling. Keep the steady “clip clop” beat by tapping small sticks or wood blocks while listening to the music.
Experiment to see which orchestral pieces your kids’ respond to the best. By exploring the world of orchestral music, your family will receive an enriching experience in the arts. As well, it is family time well spent.